Fiddler on the Roof
|Date||13th April 2022|
|Society||Rutland Musical Theatre|
|Venue||The Core Theatre at Corby Cube|
|Type of Production||Musical|
|Musical Director||Jane Stevens|
Author: luke Campbell accompnied by Nigel Hancocks, NODA East Midlands Regional Councillor
This was my first visit to see a Rutland Musical Theatre (RMT) production; with the company sitting outside my NODA district, I had not previously been lucky enough to see its work, but I certainly hope that it will not be my last visit to see this fantastic company.
For those that are unfamiliar with RMT, the company celebrated its 40th Birthday in 2020 – happy belated birthday! A two-page spread in the programme is dedicated to plotting the history of the well-established company, which over its years has staged some of musical theatre’s most well-known productions.
I was pleased to read in the ‘Chairman and Director’s Welcome’, in the programme, that despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, RMT is in excellent shape with a swelling membership and a renewed ambition.
The company’s production of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ was, necessarily, due to the pandemic, two-years in the making. It was, however, clear that every second of the two-years hiatus was well spent: the membership and creatives were delighted to be back in production, which transferred to an appreciative audience, evidently enjoying being – once again – immersed in live theatre.
‘Fiddler on the Roof’ the musical, which has had numerous successful runs on Broadway and in the West End, is based on short stories by Sholem Aleichem. Lyrics are by Sheldon Harnick and the book by Joseph Stein. The stage production was transferred to the ‘silver screen’, with the 1971 film, directed by Norman Jewison, winning three Oscars.
The story details the trials and tribulations of Tevye, his family, and his spiritual community. Explored in the plot are complex issues: ‘traditionalism’ vs ‘modernism’ and ‘liberalism’ vs ‘authoritarianism’. The book balances the warmth of the embrace of a loving family with the cold bitter sting of being ostracized from a community and those we love. Dark themes of prejudice and xenophobia are also fully exposed within the rich dynamics created by family and community structures.
The tragic story of the characters of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’, which takes place in the twilight years of the Russian Empire, is a reminder – now more than ever – of the saddening cyclical nature of history. Set in the fictional village of Anatevka (believed to be based on Aleichem’s hometown in Ukraine) during times of political unrest and war, and with references to the city of Kyiv, you could be forgiven for thinking that the book is portraying the contemporary political affairs of 21st Century Europe. Thus, this production of Fiddler on the Roof, taking to the stage during the crisis in Ukraine, is extremely poignant. It reminds us of the important role the theatre can play in provoking discourse to challenge the most unattractive traits of humankind.
Direction by Tom Johnson was brilliant. His approach brought out the best in his cast, allowing them to portray the complex range of emotions demanded by their roles. Tom skilfully directed large company scenes like ‘The Wedding Dance’ and close scenes like ‘Do You Love Me’. I also applaud his ambition, particularly in scenes such as ‘Tevey’s Dream’. His work created the richest of offerings for the audience.
Musical direction by Jane Stevens was equally as brilliant as the stage direction. Every number was exceptionally well arranged and rehearsed to live-up to the infamous score of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’. The orchestra also did an outstanding job, and I greatly appreciated the appearance of the fiddler – from the circle of the auditorium – to top and tail the show.
Choreography by Ally Ambrose was excellent: her blocking of the large-scale movement numbers was superb and she had clearly coached the company to a very high standard. I am compelled, however, to single out the work of Dance Captain, Jenny South – from the moment Jenny first moved I was captured by her execution, expression, and energy, all of which she sustained throughout the production.
Collectively, the creatives to this production – without a doubt – contributed greatly to the staging of what was a show of a professional standard.
The cast consisted of a staggering 39 members of RMT! I cannot, thus, comment on the performances offered by each member. However, what I can note is this: I witnessed something extremely unusual in Community Theatre whilst watching RMT’s ‘Fiddler on the Roof’, namely a membership that was completely balanced, exceptionally able, intensely committed, and all-round talented. Every single member – young or old; male or female; principal or ensemble – made their own outstanding contribution to the production with clear, consistent, and sustained characterisation and interaction throughout.
With the above in mind, I do – nevertheless – want to note some stand out performers worthy of even higher praise for their work on stage, namely Russell Hopkins (Tevye), Elizabeth Young (Golde), Richard Coville (Lazar Wolf), Katie Ross (Hodel), Victoria Fallow-Norton (Chava) and Belinda Horton (Yente).
I also, especially, enjoyed the work of John Saunders (Avram), Ken Walsh (Rabbi) and Craig McClellan (ensemble), and the energy offered by Dan Webster (Mendel).
I, however, truly want to reiterate that every single member was outstanding. I applaud every cast member on a job exceptionally well done!
The production was, to a large extent, outstanding.
The set, staging and props – hired for the production – added to the professional finish. The costumes, wigs, and personal props were also of a very high standard; when combined with the set, a mono-tone visual backdrop was created against which the exceptional talent of the cast could shine. One very minor note: caution the use of items that are too contemporary in style for the production, for example Perchik’s jacket. For me, given the extremely high standard of the production, such things tend to stand out.
The lighting design was excellent, and the scene transitions were very slick. The sound was generally of a good standard, it was – however – a great pity that there were some sound level issues and the odd ‘misbehaving’ personal microphone. But, in all, the crew should be congratulated on an excellent job.
The programme was of a professional standard and akin to what you would find in West End theatres. The poster and marketing materials that accompanied the production were also of a professional standard.
My warmest of congratulations for an outstanding production of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’.
Whilst I am always conscious that NODA represents amateur theatre, I affirm that the production staged by RMT was – from start to finish; from on-stage to off-stage; from production to market – absolutely of a professional standard. I also know that Nigel Hancocks (NODA Regional Councillor, East Midlands), also in attendance upon my visit, shares my views.
With the shows professional standard in mind, I am confident that the 2022 production of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ can confidently take its place alongside the RMT’s 1994 and 2006 productions, of the same title, as a resounding success.
As Community Theatre builds back from the unprecedented circumstances created by the pandemic, I consider it vital to acknowledge the huge amount of work undertaken by companies to keep theatre alive and accessible in our communities. On behalf of NODA East Midlands, I thank you.
I was grateful for the extremely warm and welcoming hospitality shown to me and Nigel Hancocks upon our visit.
I look forward to seeing the Company’s upcoming production of ‘Kinky Boots’ next season.
NODA Representative, East Midlands District 7